Article by Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis titled “2022: three major challenges for Europe” in REAL NEWS newspaper (09.01.2022)

The year 2022 will be a year of great challenges for Europe, as it will be called upon to provide answers to difficult but fundamental issues about its identity, to open issues that divide the Member States, and determine its political, economic, and geostrategic role.

The primary and most urgent challenge to be addressed is the pandemic, which is testing Europe again. Following the successful coordination for the procurement of medical supplies and vaccines, the European Union should continue to be at the forefront of science to address any new Covid variants. Member States are called upon to align policies to keep internal borders open and transnational movement safe.

Regarding the economy, the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact constitutes a big bet. Our compass should be the philosophy of the Recovery and Resilience Facility. Just as in 2020 we decided that the Union could borrow for the first time on behalf of the Member States, so now we should use innovative, development-oriented tools. In the aftermath of the pandemic, Europe needs an expansionary fiscal policy, bold and flexible, that serves the Commission’s goals for Europe’s Digital Transformation and Green Transition.

The second great debate that needs to be launched immediately is on Europe’s geopolitical position. Global balance of powers is shifting, migration flows in the Eastern Mediterranean are being instrumentalized, and fundamental rules of International Law and good neighborliness are being openly challenged by countries such as Turkey.
In the context of this new security architecture, it is time for the European Union to acquire a clear geopolitical identity and work towards its strategic autonomy; to stop being preoccupied with itself and turn outwards dominantly and unflinchingly; to become a pillar of stability and a co-shaper of global decisions. And the current French Presidency of the European Council constitutes the most appropriate framework so that the Union moves from rhetoric to the practical development of a common, functional and effective security and defense policy.

Energy prices are an area of political controversy in Europe. With the EU aiming for climate neutrality in 2050, Member States, already divided over transitional renewables, opt for those that suit their national interests.

But we should not lose sight of the common goal, the Green Transition. We have to win this bet yesterday, being united and without having pseudo-dilemmas between green and cheap energy – after all, Renewable Energy Sources are cheaper than fossil fuels. At the same time, aiming for its energy self-sufficiency and security, Europe can find an alternative source of energy in the reserves of the Southeastern Mediterranean – including those located in Cyprus – while, by deepening its energy relations with Israel and Egypt, it can achieve its disengagement from monopoly dependencies. For its part, Greece, relying on its comparative advantages (geography and climate) and multilateral cooperation, can become a transit hub for cheap clean energy.

The year 2022 will indeed be a demanding year for Europe. However, 72 years since its founding and 20 years since the adoption of the euro, it has now learned how to move forward while overcoming crises. It often does so at a slow pace, but it always moves ahead. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the European Union may prove to be more competitive, autonomous and cohesive, while Greece can turn to be an active member on the road to EU’s next achievements.

Happy European Year!